Calvin Students Tell Bush: God Is Not A Democrat or Republican
The White House seeks out safe audiences for George Bush, as we described yesterday. A Dutch Reformed Christian College in heavily Republican West Michigan seemed as safe as you could get. Although he was apparently unaware of it when the speech was scheduled. Karl Rove's own grandmother had attended Calvin College around the end of World War I. Calvin graduates include Jay Van Andel, founder of Alticore (formerly Amway), and Betsy DeVos, until recently chairman of the Michigan Republican Party.
While a majority of students supported George Bush for reelection, not all agreed with his policies. Students, alumni, and one third of the faculty took out ads in the Grand Rapids Press yesterday and today (text of both ads here) protesting President Bush's visit, telling Bush that they "see conflicts between our understanding of what Christians are called to do and many of the policies of your administration."
Some students and faculty members expressed concern that, being a Christian College, they would be mistaken for members of the religious right. David Crump, a professor of religion for the last eight years, said, "The largest part of our concern is the way in which our religious discourse in this country has largely been co-opted by the religious right and their wholesale endorsement of this administration."
Writing in today's Grand Rapids Press (not available on line) religion editor Charles Honey noted that Calvin College has had conflicts with the Christian Reformed Church in the past "on issues such as teaching of evolution but has landed on the side of academic freedom." Two weeks ago Jim Wallis spoke at Calvin before a packed college chapel.
The social conservativism of other Christian colleges in West Michigan was noted here last week. The Dutch Reformed Church has also been typically conservative on social issues. For example, in 1995 Christ Community Church in Spring Lake, Michigan was forced to split from the Reformed Church of America due to being open to gays and questioning other aspects of conservative religious dogma. In 2004 Christ Community showed that not all religious organizations believed God was a Republican. Although prohibited from openly campaigning for Kerry, their message was clear. During the campaign they ran an ad in local newspapers advising readers to check out the web sites of both candidates to answer a series of questions. Those who conducted this research with an open mind would find that John Kerry was the candidate who better represented moral values.
If members of the faculty and student body at Calvin College are protesting George Bush, it raises questions as to how firmly the Republicans really have won the long term support of religious voters. Many show interest in Democratic values such as a just foreign policy, protecting the environment, and helping the poor. These values may win more votes for Democrats who stick to their moral values in the future.